Monday, September 13, 2021

PTSW: Daddies

I never wrist-wrestled my Daddy. 

But this poem struck home as it resurrected in my imagination a role-reversed experience with him one day about 1974. We both knew the world had changed that day. 


"Wrist Wrestling Father" ~ Orval Lund

for my father

On the maple wood we placed our elbows
and gripped hands, the object to bend
the other's arm to the kitchen table.
We flexed our arms and waited for the sign.

I once shot a wild goose.
I once stood not twenty feet from a buck deer unnoticed.
I've seen a woods full of pink lady slippers.
I once caught a 19-inch trout on a tiny fly.
I've seen the Pacific, I've seen the Atlantic,
I've watched whales in each.

I once heard Lenny Bruce tell jokes.
I've seen Sandy Koufax pitch a baseball.
I've heard Paul Desmond play the saxophone.
I've been to London to see the Queen.
I've had dinner with a Nobel Prize poet.

I wrote a poem once with every word but one just right.
I've fathered two fine sons
and loved the same woman for twenty-five years.

But I've never been more amazed
than when I snapped my father's arm down to the table.

Monday, September 06, 2021

United We Stand.



In the last half of the seventeen hundreds a large number of white landholding men in America were feeling that their natural rights were being trampled. They decided that they must unite or die under the tyranny of King George. E Pluribus Unum: Out of the many weak colonies they represented they united to create one federation. 

They were smart men, educated men, men, men who in their best moments were high-minded and principled. They spoke nobly of the rights of man, of equality, of liberty. But, like you and me, they were creatures of their time. Like you and me they were susceptible to greed, selfishness, prejudice, and short-sightedness. If they considered blacks or native Americans or even immigrants from other societies or the poor in general, or even their own mothers and daughters at all, it was mostly with the condescension of real men toward something less.

As the decades passed those noble writings filtered down to those "lessers" and they began to claim those natural rights to themselves. And as the agrarian society gave way to the industrial revolution the greed and unfairness of unrestrained capitalism became more and more obvious and its victims became more and more restive. They wanted their natural rights too. And they realized that they must unite or die, that they could be strong only if they could unite the many. The great American labor movement was born and the "all men" in the Declaration and the "general welfare" in the first sentence of the Constitution came, more and more, to refer to more than just white landholding men. 

Today we celebrate that great perfecting of America. Even in 2021 we are not finished. Lord knows we have taken some backwards steps in the last 30 years and especially in the last five, but we keep re-bending the arc of history toward justice and liberty.

I love America not because it's perfect; it's not. I love America because it is founded on the goal of ever-perfecting the balance of liberty and the common welfare. 

----

Here's a Labor Day post from 2007:


A Labor Day Acrostic

It seems to me there is less respect today than at anytime in my life for the labor of common folk. The air of entitlement among some folk only a generation or two removed from "linthead" and "clodbuster" ancestors is downright shocking. People who would still be tied to farm or mill had there been no union movement or New Deal or GI Bill are adamantly anti-union, anti-Democratic, anti-government programs period. There is very little awareness or appreciation for the incredible number of hands responsible for each little luxury and convenience we partially consume and largely consign to metastasizing landfills. There is great disdain for those whose labor is necessary to our wasteful lifestyles. And how dare our tax dollars be used to provide health insurance to common laborers who contribute less than us to the tax coffers.

On Labor Day this year I had the rare privilege of listening as several of my older relatives discussed the work their parents did in the cotton mills of Georgia and South Carolina. I am very proud of those folks. They sacrificed much to give their children better lives.

One interesting story was about how, when the small Methodist Church (the graveyard of which holds my grandparents) in Porterdale was used for a union organizing meeting it was burned down.

On the 1900 census of Spaulding County Georgia you will find my 10 year old Uncle Ervin listed as "elevator boy" and my fifteen year old grandmother as "mill worker". Think about that my young friends as you clip on your iPods and head to the gym to workout in your 75 dollar Nikes.

I interviewed Uncle Ervin when he was in his nineties back about 1981. He mentioned visiting Ashland, Alabama (from Griffin, Georgia) in his youth. I asked him how he got there. I thought perhaps he took a horse or wagon or maybe a train. No. "I got there the same way I got anywhere else," he said, "I walked."

I'm sure it was good exercise. I do not think he wore Nikes.

So here's my response to Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch, an acrostic for Labor Day.

Little Uncle Irvin, ten-years-old,
A new employee, runs the mill's
Big elevator, up and down, hour after hour --
Our grandmother, fifteen and fatherless, an old hand upstairs --
Raising the bosses and the bossed,

Day after 1900 day,
And Will, and Fanny, and Molly, and Cora,
Year after non-union year.

by Terrell Shaw



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Bits from Mother's House: The Ice Storm

Since my Mother's death a few weeks ago I have been busy with my duties as executor, with a lot of help from Sheila. But along the way I have also been trying to scan and organize Mother's pictures and some of her letters and documents. 

I came across this tiny picture that she had in a tiny frame in the living room. I had noticed it many times over the years but never looked closely at it until I scanned it yesterday. I'm not sure I had even noticed that it was David, my brother. Details from the picture conjure a story of my preteen years. 

1.

First my beloved and much-anticipated first and only brother. What a precocious little guy he was! When Mother was expecting her last child my Daddy and I commandeered all the baby things: the crib, the little chest of drawers, etc. We hauled it to the yard of 333 South Ninth Street in Griffin, Georgia, prepared it appropriately, and painted it baby blue. I already had five sisters. I adored my two older sisters who were, it seemed to me, the smartest and most beautiful girls extant. I cherished my two little baby sisters, Debi and Beth, as cuties who were mostly unobjectionable. I tolerated my nearest sibling, Carol, who could be useful sometimes as a playmate, but who could be an encumbrance at other times. 

But surely it was only justice that I have at least one brother.

Our plan worked and David Baird Shaw was born just a few weeks before the now completed set of siblings moved with our parents to heaven -- Ellijay, Georgia. The parsonage there was a large modern brick ranch house on a big lot right on Dalton Street with a nice view of the mountains.

2.

Another detail is the carpet. Look at that stuff. It's hard to tell the color in this photo; it was dark green. But you can certainly see the texture: late-fifties big-loop shag! The parsonage committee had carpeted much of the house with this latest fad.

3.

The lit lantern gives a big clue about the timing. During our three and a half years in Ellijay one of the most memorable events -- a grand adventure for us kids and a terrible aggravation to our parents -- was "The Big Ice Storm".  We were without power for days. The whole family lived in the living room camping out on that shag carpet. There was a fireplace there, fueled by wood scraps Daddy obtained from a local sawmill. I'd be willing to bet this photo is from that time.

4.

And with the enlargement available from scanning the picture, I can see what David is "reading": my Boy Scout Handbook. No part of my life during this period was more central than my membership in the Boy Scouts of America. I anxiously awaited my copy of Boys Life every month. I poured over Merit Badge booklets to find my next project. I loved our camping trips.

Monday, August 30, 2021

That Trailer!


 My Daddy had been a machinist for Callaway Mills as a young man. He learned welding and metalworking. So when he became student pastor on the Mackville-Antioch charge smack dab in the middle of very rural 1952 Kentucky, and made friends with the owner of the little machine shop in Mackville he soon came up with a project. He found the junked remains of an ancient Ford pickup, salvaged about half of the chassis -- an axle with two wheels and enough of the frame as a base -- and built a sturdy floor with high sides. He welded on a tongue at the front, added a little wiring and brake lights, and with appropriate hitch parts for it and the car, had himself a right respectable utility trailer. 

In 2021 it is a bit shocking to see the photographic evidence of the utility to which my creative Dad put that trailer. In an era before seatbelts it seemed a barrel of fun to me when Daddy loaded me into the trailer, told me to hold on tight, and then slowly toured all the dusty country roads between Mackville and Perryville picking up farm kids and hauling them to Bible School at Antioch Methodist Church.

That's me standing tall at the back on the trailer and my beautiful big sister, Janice, standing on Terra Firma. There's likely another Shaw or two aboard but I can't pick 'em out for sure. The eldest person in the picture is now in her early eighties. I am among the youngest and I am 74. If you recognize another of the passengers on this luxury transport please comment below!


Terrell Shaw at Antioch in 2019

Antioch United Methodist Church 2019


That trailer was useful for a Methodist preacher, since in that era pastorates rarely extended longer than three of four years. We loaded it down with our belongings and hauled it from Mackville to Griffin GA when Daddy was assigned to the Midway-Sunnyside-Vaughn circuit there in 1954. We stacked it high again for the move to Ellijay in 1958. At Ellijay it came in handy for the frequent trips with household garbage to the city dump. And in 1962 it drug our belongings away from that Blue Ridge town to Trinity Methodist's spanking new parsonage in Summerville Park here in Rome. 

In Rome Daddy met a kindred spirit in Bobby Storey. Bobby was not only a gregarious member of our church, but also a fellow WWII vet and camping enthusiast. The two of them took a second-look at that trailer and thought it could be converted to a camping trailer. Soon they had  given it a completely new look. Much lower with compartments for camping equipment built into the sides, extensions that could be folded out at front and back, and a canvas roof and sides that could be raised above it. We camped in that trailer at FDR park near Callaway Gardens and at assorted state parks in North Carolina. 

Somewhere during my college years I lost track of it. I don't remember whatever became of it in the end. 

I wonder if we have a picture of the camper? If I find one I'll add it here.




PTSW: Content

 "This is my story; this is my song!" 

Anyone with an evangelical upbringing like mine -- Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or any of the myriad smaller denominations --- grew up singing those words often and could not help but be at least vaguely familiar with the name Fanny Crosby.  She published over 8000 hymns and gospel songs. She actually published songs under numerous pseudonyms because some publishers were reluctant to include multiple hymns by the same songwriter in their hymnals. 

She got a very early start. The blind poet and songwriter wrote these lines as an eight-year-old:

Oh what a happy soul am I 

although I cannot see, 

I am resolved that in this world 

contented I shall be. 

How many blessings I enjoy 

that other people don’t. 

To weep and sigh, because I’m blind? 

I cannot and I won’t.


Sometimes when I contemplate...

  • the arthritis in my hands and feet, 
  • the tiredness that comes earlier and earlier in the day, 
  • the changing population of the earth as my contemporaries depart and others take their places, 
  • Americans ignoring/forgetting the Preamble, 
  • the climate degrading --- 

    --- all the clouds that darken my world, 

I am tempted to glower and complain. 

But the blind girl was right. What blessings I enjoy! 

Weep and sigh? 

I cannot and I won't.

I'll do what I can to proclaim truth and promote Love, and do my best to be content and enjoy the marvelous blessings I have. 

 "This is my story; this is my song!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Rachel Jones



When, about thirty years ago, Kam Malone announced that he would be leaving his (first) stint as choir director at our church, Trinity United Methodist, I mentioned the opening to my school friend Rachel Jones at Garden Lakes Elementary. She applied for the supposedly part-time job and was hired. It was one of the best hires in the history of our congregation. There has never been a "part-time" employee who put more of herself into a job. And she filled two positions at once; she directed the choir AND played the organ. Her title became Organist/Choirmaster but really she was our Minister of Music. 

Rachel considered it her job to see that music was an all-encompassing ministry for our congregation from cradle to grave. She directed a children's choir and organized frequent musical productions involving the children. I was privileged to help her with that program and witnessed first hand her devotion and musicianship. She sought to develop a core group of soloists as well as small ensembles in addition to the chancel choir. I was a direct beneficiary of that ministry. During her time with us she chose many solos for me, spent extra time and taught me to sing them, called on me to sing them often when they would fit with the pastor's sermon, and even set up Sunday evening concerts for me. She did the same for other singers. I especially enjoyed the time she had my daughter Brannon and me perform a Sunday evening concert together. 

She possessed an unbelievable wealth of church music experience and a noggin that was a veritable world catalog of Christian hymns, solos, and choir pieces. She had appropriate music for every occasion, any scripture, and whatever topic the pastor could find to preach about.

I always enjoyed my rehearsal and performance time with Rachel. She helped me prepare for numerous weddings and funerals over the years. On at least two occasions she helped me prepare for and accompanied me on musical programs for civic groups. Two humorous stories always come to mind. 

Once she threatened my life! She had me sing a beautiful song each Easter for several years: "In the End of the Sabbath." It is a very dramatic song about the Resurrection and the climactic words are "He is not here; He is risen!" But in rehearsal one year I got tongue-tied and some how managed to move the "not" from the first clause to the second. She stopped the accompaniment with a bang, turned and looked at me and said with a big grin, "If you sing it that way on EASTER morning I'll kill you!" We both laughed about it and I never again made THAT mistake, and still survive.

On another occasion she became the only person of my lifetime to accuse me of genius. I was singing a brand new solo she had taught me for the first time in a Sunday morning service. Again I messed up the words and put the wrong word into the song at a point where the word needed to rhyme with the corresponding word in the next line. I could feel Rachel cringing wondering what I would sing. Perhaps it was divine intervention that allowed my cloudy brain to clear long enough to come up with a rhyme that -- amazingly -- made sense! As far as we know no one in the congregation noticed there was a glitch. On the way up the stairs to the choir room, with no witness that I can call on to vouch for me, she said, and I quote: "You're a genius!" It may be more of a testament to my lack of genius that she was so shocked that I came up with that rhyme "on the spot." 

In 1997 my Mother moved to Rollingwood, just across Huffacre Road and a few doors west of Rachel and Bob. Rachel often took walks through the neighborhood and Mother always enjoyed seeing Rachel walk by, and every now and then she'd walk by when I was visiting with Mother and we'd get to visit a while in the driveway. 

Just three weeks ago, I walked that block from my mother's house to the Joneses to talk with Rachel and her husband Bob. My mother had just died and I wanted to ask Rachel to play for the funeral. Rachel reluctantly let me know that arthritis had limited her piano and organ playing and I needed to find someone else. But what a joy it was to sit with Bob and Rachel and reminisce about her decade as our music minister. I had a chance to tell her very directly how much that ministry has meant to me, and Sheila, and our daughters over the years. 

And I reminded Bob that I came home from my very first voice lesson with him and told Sheila, "I am a better singer than I was a couple of hours ago." And I was. Bob is a wonderful voice teacher who helped me understand significantly more about my own voice in just one lesson.

Rachel was that day, as always, gracious, sharp, and warm. And in that week of sad loss, the love and support I felt from Rachel and Bob was an elixir. What a horror that here only three weeks later we have another loss. Rachel had a terrible fall at home a few days ago and succumbed to her injuries on Sunday. Rachel's funeral will be held at Second Avenue Baptist Church at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 27.  Visitation is scheduled for the hour preceding the funeral there at the church. 

I am a better singer. I am a better musician. I am a better person because of Rachel Jones. The world is a poorer place today without her, but a much better place because of her gentle influence during the last eight decades. I am so thankful that I had a chance to know, and to learn from, Rachel Jones.




Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Saying Bye

After two very emotional weeks, mourning and joy, celebration and fishing, singing and splashing, reading and pretending, exploring and reveling, and more, today we rose before light and drove through heavy rain to Atlanta airport and back. It is so hard to say bye to these beloveds. Now we must put away the toys and childrens books for at least six months, probably more. We must dismantle and pack away 35 year old Pat, the Apatosaurus, till the next visit.

But we'll visit them again out there when the new baby is born around Halloween.



At the airport
On the Plane


Back to home without grandkids

We bought Pat the Apatosaurus about 1986 ... 

...for $27.96...

Brannon and Lillian loved it and so do Clemmie and Ruth.









Monday, August 16, 2021

PTSW: A Ballad by My Mother for Her Mother... and Biscuits

My nephew Jonathan Lewis helped Mother record this video a dozen years ago. She shows how to make buttermilk biscuits and then sings her ‘Ballad for My Mother.’ As we mourn her loss we also celebrate the many joys she brought us; her cooking and her writing are two of those joys. So for this Monday I'll feature her song as A Poem to Start the Week.


Click on this picture to see the video.


A Ballad For My Mother

1. 

My mother grew old...
Had lines etched in her face
Worked hard all her life. . .
With uncommon grace
She lived by the Bible. . .
And I'd visit awhile
She taught me her secret. . .
of life with a smile

She said: "Today is the first day
Of the rest of your life.
Don't borrow trouble
With yesterday’s strife.
Take time. . . smell the flowers
Make life worth while
Pick up each new day
With love and a smile!

2.

Widowed while young. . .
Mama worked in the mill
Washed on a scrub-board. . .
Brought wood up a hill
She sang as she labored. . .
To stay out of debt
She taught me this lesson. . .
I'll never forget!

She said, "Today is the first day
Of the rest of your life
Don't borrow trouble
With yesterday's strife...
Take time...smell the flowers
That makes life worthwhile
Pick up each new day...
With Love and a smile! "

3. 

One day I said, Mama. . .
Your life has been hard
You've buried two babies. . .
Out in the church yard
You've known all the heartache
Of struggling for bread,
She smiled through her tears..
These words she said:

She said "Today is the first day
Of the rest of your life.
Don't borrow trouble
With yesterday’s strife.
Take time. . . smell the flowers
That makes life worth while
Pick up each new day...
With love and a smile! "

4. 

Her old fashioned tea cakes. . .
We ate the last crumb
Her old fashioned flowers. . .
She had a green thumb.
She lived by the Bible. . .
Each day and each mile
She taught me her secret. . .
Of life with a smile!

- Ruth Baird Shaw

Monday, August 09, 2021

Newlyweds...

After that wonderful 50th anniversary party Brannon and Lillian gave us yesterday Sheila and I are back home feeling refreshed and as young as ever… enjoying our old house and yard and the adjoining levee.











Friday, August 06, 2021

Sarah Ruth Baird Shaw, 1923-2021


Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate my Mother's remarkable life at her memorial service at Trinity United Methodist Church today. If you did not get a chance to attend here is the video.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

A Big Anniversary Reunion



They had met a year before at a basketball game (Was it in Milstead or Porterdale?) and a little later at Uncle Lewis Shaw's house; Ruth and Lewis’s daughter Clara were school acquaintances. They were both at Clara’s for a “pound party” if I remember the story correctly. Charles was smitten immediately. They took walks around Porterdale down to the stone formations still called “The Rock House” along the Yellow River near the Bibb Manufacturing mill. It wasn’t long before, strolling along, Charles, 18, asked Ruth, 14, to marry him. 

“You know I’m too young to be married!” she replied. 

“I know,” he said, but couldn’t we be engaged?”

Ruth has impishly told me, again just in the last month, “Oh I was so wise; I thought, "We might as well go ahead and get married and have more years together.” 

Today is the eighty-third anniversary of the day Ruth and Charles, two teenagers in love,  stood in the living room at 45 Hazel Street in Porterdale, Georgia with the pastor of Milstead Methodist Church  and several family members to promise their lives to each other for better or worse. There were definitely better and worse days, but they stuck together till that terrible day in 1986 when a heart attack took him away from her -- till last Sunday anyway.

Ruth had had her choice that day in 1938 of the beige dress her sister Louise (Sis) had bought for her or the blue dress her sister-in-law Julia had bought for her. My grandmother had watched teens forced apart and Charles Shaw, all of nineteen, somehow persuaded her to allow her fifteen year-old daughter to get married. 

Charles had to catch a ride on his wedding day from Milstead to Porterdale with his pastor, and the couple rode back, chauffeured again by the pastor, to Milstead to begin their married life  — Charles had wrecked his father’s automobile a few days earlier and carried a scar from that wreck on his chin throughout his days. 

Mama Shaw and Daddy Shaw moved out of their own bedroom to give quarters to the newlyweds till they could find permanent lodging. 

Mother reminded me, again less than a month ago, that when a few weeks had passed she had begun to worry that they might not be able to have children. She didn’t worry long; Baby Janice arrived ten months after the wedding. Then a few days before the Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor Joan joined the little family. Two years in the South Pacific postponed the next baby, me, till 1947. 

Tomorrow we will have a big reunion of loved ones and friends to celebrate the long life of Ruth Baird Shaw with a funeral at Trinity United Methodist Church. It will be a time of tears and laughs and wonderful remembering and also of worship and healing for a very large family. I hope lots of Mother’s friends will join us. We’ve laid down some time limits; even I will be brief, but we will mourn our loss, share our memories, and rejoice in our great good fortune of having this amazing, stubborn, gentle, unassuming, loving, beautiful woman in our lives. I will have had only six days of experience living without her out of my 27,166 days on Planet Earth. At some point each evening it crosses my mind: "I need to run over to Mother’s!" I quickly remember. 

She did her best to prepare us and we’ll make it, but even now it ain’t easy.

Happy Anniversary, Mother and Daddy! As I have said, I am no theologian and I don’t have the inside dope on how things like this work, but while your family and friends have our earthly reunion tomorrow, I love the notion that y’all are having a grand anniversary reunion where you are.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Ruth Baird Shaw obituary

 


The Reverend Sarah Ruth Baird Shaw of Rome died on Sunday, August 1, 2021 at a local health care facility. 

She was a beloved child of God, and over her 98 years faithfully and lovingly fulfilled the roles of daughter, sister, pastor’s wife — serving nine churches with her late husband, the Reverend Charles Columbus Shaw; pastor in her own right — serving seven churches over 20 years; mother of seven, grandmother of 18, great-grandmother of 37, and great-great-grandmother of one. 

Ruth was born on Feb. 19, 1923, in Porterdale, GA, the 11th (and final) child of the late Benjamin Wilson Baird and the late Ieula Ann Dick Baird. She was preceded in death by her ten siblings: Brothers Wilson Grice Baird, William Bogan (Bill) Baird, Charles Morrison (Charlie) Baird, John Thomas Baird, Jackson Irvin (Jack) Baird, and James Leon Baird; sisters Esther Louise Campbell, Lola Frances Baird, Vera Mae Loyd, and Mary Elizabeth Shepherd. All lived into adulthood except Lola, who died as an infant, and Leon who died at age three. 

Ruth and Charles grew up in mill towns about 15 miles apart: Porterdale and Milstead, GA. They met as teenagers and were married in 1938. Charles was 19 and Ruth was 15. They began a family right away and are survived by all seven of their children: Dr. Janice Diane Crouse (Gilbert) of Laurel, MD; Lynda Joan Turrentine (Jim) of Rome; Charles Terrell Shaw (Sheila) of Rome; Mary Carol Johnston (Ron) of Franklin, TN; Deborah Ruth Lewis (Gregg) of Rome; Sharlyn Beth Roszel of Grovetown, GA; and David Baird Shaw (Vicki) of Munford, AL. A son-in-law, Dr. Charles Hardy Roszel died in 2013. 

Following World War II, Charles felt a call to the ministry and in 1950, with four children, the family moved to Wilmore, KY so that Charles could attend Asbury College. Ruth and Charles had both finished high school after they married and both highly valued education. Around her roles as wife and mother, Ruth managed to read many of Charles’ college textbooks simply for the pleasure of learning. 

After four years of college and student pastorates, the family (now with five children) moved to Griffin, GA where Charles began seminary at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and served as pastor at two small churches. Four years later, with a Masters of Divinity for Charles and seven children from college age to infancy, the family moved to their first full-time pastorate at Watkins Memorial Methodist Church in Ellijay. 

Charles’ pastoral years took them from Ellijay to Trinity Methodist Church in Rome (1962-1967) and on to Fairburn, Atlanta, Austell, and Forest Park. Charles took early retirement after two heart attacks and they settled in College Park, GA, and Charles began serving a part-time pastorate at Rico United Methodist Church in Rico, GA in 1985. 

Ruth had started taking college classes while they were in Rome and continued to do so sporadically over the years. At one point she was talking with her brother Bill about whether she should finish her college degree. He said, “Ruth, do it while you’re still young.” She was 57; he was in his 70s. She did finish the degree, graduating from Georgia State University in 1985 with a degree in Gerontology. 

On Dec. 3, 1986, Charles suffered another heart attack and Ruth was widowed at age 63. After two Sundays of fill-in preachers at Rico Methodist, the congregation asked the District Superintendent if Ruth could fill out the year as their pastor. She had preached there several times in Charles’ stead and for years both she and Charles felt that she was being called to preach the gospel. 

Ruth agreed, and served Rico for three years. During that time she enrolled in Candler at Emory and in 1990 earned her own Master of Divinity degree. In June 1990 she began a full-time pastorate at Grantville United Methodist Church where she served three years until she reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. 

Ruth was respected and beloved at all the churches she pastored and her congregations grew in spirituality as well as numbers. She continued to serve after retiring from Grantville, first at East Point Avenue United Methodist Church (1993-1997), and after moving to Rome, at Trinity United Methodist as Pastor of Congregational Care (1997-2001), Lyerly United Methodist (6 months), Oostanaula United Methodist (2001-2002) and Livingston United Methodist (2007). 

She was for many years active in the Rome Area Writers group and in her 80s published a blog of reminiscences and life stories that were later released as a book, The Chronicles of Ruth. She published four other books of recipes, poems and sermons: Recipes, Rhymes and Reflections; Life with Wings; Fifty-Two Sundays; and Look at the Book. A collection of her private papers will be donated to Harvard’s Schlesinger Library Women’s History Project. 

Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6, at Trinity United Methodist Church in Rome, preceded by visitation from 2-3:30 p.m. Interment will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7 at East View Cemetery in Conyers, GA. 

In lieu of flowers the family suggests friends and relatives consider donations to the PALS mothers’ morning out program at Trinity United Methodist Church, 606 Turner McCall Blvd., Rome GA 30165; or Lily’s Garden (childhood cancer fund), c/o Jan Duckworth, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, 2525 West End Avenue, Suite 450, Nashville, TN 37203. 

Friends and family attending the committal service on Saturday are encouraged to gather at Crossroads United Methodist Church, 2460 Highway 138 NE, Conyers, GA before 1:45 p.m. in preparation for the procession to the cemetery. An air-conditioned room, drinking water, and restroom facilities will be available beginning at noon. Those who drive directly to the cemetery should be careful to leave space for the hearse and procession to access to the gravesite.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Sheila and Mother

Mother and Sheila were a mutual admiration club. 




The picture is of a very common occurance; Sheila sitting next to Mother on her couch showing off photos and videos of my grandchildren. 

Ruth Baird Shaw absolutely delighted in seeing pictures of Clemmie and Ruth --- and any of her 80 or so descendants and/or spouses. I love Sheila and Mother each the more for the way they loved each other.

My beautiful wife wrote the following note to her cousins to tell them about Mother's death.

Terrell’s mother, Ruth Baird Shaw, died this morning about 1:40. Terrell’s sister Carol was with her in the hospital. The 5 children who were in town, plus me and a son-in-law, went over and sat with her until the funeral home came. It was a sad but special time of remembering.
She was a remarkable woman who lived a full and meaningful life. Born in a mill town in 1923, the youngest of 11. Married at 15 and a mother at 16. They had 4 children when Terrell’s dad, Charles, answered the call to the ministry and they headed from Georgia to Kentucky so he could go to Asbury College (where Terrell and I met in 1967).
Ruth started taking college extension classes in the 1960s while serving as a pastor’s wife and mothering 7 children who ranged in age from 20s to infancy. Many years later when she was talking with her brother Bill about whether she should finish college, he told her, “Ruth, do it now, while you’re young.” She was 57. He was in his 70s, I think. She did finish that college degree a few years later, at Georgia State, in gerontology.
Terrell’s dad Charles passed away in 1986, leaving her a widow at 63. The small church where Charles was serving part-time in retirement asked Ruth, who had sometimes preached there, to finish the conference year as their pastor. She felt called to do so and before a year passed she enrolled at Candler School of Theology at Emory (where Charles went) to get her own M.Div. degree. She finished at 67 and served as a full time pastor for 3 years until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. She then served a number of smaller churches and for a few years after moving to Rome was an assistant pastor at our church.
She was a wonderful mother-in-law. I always felt loved by Terrell’s family and he felt loved by my family. We both had the best in-laws!


Sheila is right that I also have been fortunate in my "in-laws". Mavis and Jay Matthews as well as a bunch of aunts and cousins accepted me as part of the Matthews family from the start. I love them all dearly.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Ringing the Bell for Mother

I had not slept since 1:30 a.m., but still I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my walking stick and my hat, and at a little after seven, walked toward the church to ring the bell, as I had done many, many times since last March. 

Volunteers have been ringing the church bell in that fashion since the pandemic started and Sheila and I have taken a turn morning and evening one day each week for well over a year now. Often we'd leave the church parking lot at 7:20 on a Sunday evening and drive directly to Mother's house. (I always put out her garbage and recycle bins on Sunday evenings for pick-up on Monday mornings.) When we told her about the bell she would say, "I wish I could hear it ringing."

Yesterday morning at Floyd Hospital

So since Mother was so close by -- right next door at Floyd Hospital -- last night, I had told her and sister Carol as I left them at a little after eight, that if they listened from room 4520 at Floyd this morning, they'd hear Trinity's bell pealing seven and fourteen at 7:14 a.m. as a reminder of the scripture:

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

As I walked up Avenue A toward Trinity United Methodist Church a while ago I thought of the saints of that church who once called the houses I passed and others in our neighborhood home: Dot and Lewis Walden, Lewises parents before him, and his brother Billy who died so young in the Winecoff fire; Miss Annie Beth Terrell who loved my family and hosted my fellow teenagers for MYF retreats at her cabin under Mount Alto and sent me goodie packages when I went off to college; the Parkers and Kings and Reeces and McCrarys and Ables and Latimers; Miss Lottie Duncan who was Daddy's first secretary. 

A Mourning Dove accompanied my thoughts with its sad song as i walked. I am not so arrogant as to pretend I know how things work when lungs no longer suck at the air and hearts no longer pump nourishment to our braincells. But this morning I imagined that cloud of witnesses welcoming another to their midst. And I imagined my father, and my mother's father and mother, there with big smiles and open arms. And I imagined them listening together as I pulled the knotted rope and rang that old bell that has sounded from that belfry for 135 years. I imagine Mother saying, "Terry said he'd ring it this morning."

Sarah Ruth Baird Shaw died peacefully in the wee hours of this Sunday morning. 

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I sang for Mother dozens of times the last week and a half. This is one of her favorites:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Here is a post I wrote for Mother in 2013 on the occasion of her nintieth birthday:

Ruth Baird Shaw

We will celebrate my mother's birthday ten days early on February 9th -- this coming Saturday -- with a party at Trinity Methodist Church here in Rome. 2-4 p.m. Y'all come. 

(Edited February 10, 2013: We had a great day celebrating our mother yesterday. Each of the seven siblings took part in the program. Our brother-in-law Chuck Roszel added some heartfelt extemporaneous remarks at the end as well. I sang two songs, "The Love of God" during my remarks, and "Amazing Grace" with the congregation joining in, at the end.  Here are (approximately), my remarks.


My Mother is an amazing woman. 

I’ve always known that. 

Ruth Shaw is a very active woman -- creative, determined, dedicated, caring, independent, and sharp as a tack -- who will turn ninety-years-young on February 19. 

And I remember her thirtieth birthday, when I would have been almost six. I thought that sounded sort of old then. 

I remember walking hand in hand with her at about that time down Main Street of little Mackville KY from the Methodist parsonage to the elementary school for my first day of first grade. I remember the comfort of that hand.

And I remember the utter shame of having to walk the long blocks from Fourth Ward Elementary in Griffin GA toward our little parsonage on South Ninth Street carrying a note from Mrs. Giles about my third grade misbehavior. I would have to present that evidence of my black heart to my wonderful mother. I no longer remember the particular sin, but I do remember that I did not want to disappoint Ruth Shaw. 

My mother read to us. I can see the Bible story book in my mind’s eye. One of these days I want to find that book and buy one to have at my house. I loved those stories. Even more I loved the one who read them to us. 

I remember Mother walking me and Carol and Debbie down College Street to Griffin’s Hawkes Public Library to load up on Hardy Boy books, and Jim Kjelgaard, and boyhood biographies of Lee and Washington, and such, AND stopping by the bakery nearby for gingerbread men on the way home.

I remember the pride and awe of hearing her singing beautiful harmony with my Daddy --  “The Love of God” --  at a Sunday night service at Midway Methodist. So in honor of that but without the harmony -- unless some of you want to provide it and feel free! -- I’d like to sing that old song.



  1. The love of God is greater far
  1. Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
  1. It goes beyond the highest star,
  1. And reaches to the lowest hell;
  1. The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
  1. God gave His Son to win;
  1. His erring child He reconciled,
  1. And pardoned from his sin.
  • Refrain:
  • Oh, love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong!

  • It shall forevermore endure—The saints’ and angels’ song.
  1. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
  1. And were the skies of parchment made,
  1. Were every stalk on earth a quill,
  1. And every man a scribe by trade;
  1. To write the love of God above
  1. Would drain the ocean dry;
  1. Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
  1. Though stretched from sky to sky.


We thought we’d arrived in heaven -- at least I did -- in 1958 when we moved from the modest little parsonage in Griffin to the brick mansion-in-my-eyes at Ellijay. On the day we moved Daddy pulled the car onto the shoulder along Highway 5 as we neared Ellijay to soak in an amazing sight. The white clouds in an azure sky had nestled onto and around the mountains, allowing those magnificent  summits to peek out above them.  

I have many good memories from Ellijay, but a terrifying one occured about 1960. David a toddler decided to spread the ends of a bobby pin and poke them into an electrical outlet. Luckily the circuit he completed was broken when the pin burned in two and dropped to the wooden floor where it burned a permanent record of the event. Mother handed the convulsing David to me to hold while she drove us down Dalton Street toward the doctor’s office. Her calm calmed us then and often since, even when she was the one suffering and we should have been the ones soothing.

Like every Southern family at the time, our extended family members were not unanimously accepting of the tumult of the day. I remember with pride my bashful Mother defending Martin Luther King in some family discussions -- well before it was the popular thing to do.

I could go on and on. 

I love my mother not just for herself, but for those who loved her enough to guide her toward the person she has become. Those include my grandmother Ieula Ann Dick Baird, who as a widow raised her eleventh child to revere the father, Wilson Baird, she lost when she was only nine, to love the God who had guided him, and to love Ieula’s own grandfather, Bogan Mask, who had shown kindness to mistreated slaves and bravely stood for his beliefs as a licensed Methodist exhorter and took in Ieula, her siblings and her widowed, pregnant mother when Charles Ervin Dick died at 35. 

I love her for the the quiet bravery, dedication to duty, and love of God exhibited by her brothers and sisters, and the love of a young husband and his band of precocious, mischievous brothers, gregarious Daddy Shaw, and determined Mama Shaw. 

I love her for my inspiring siblings, whom she reined in when needed, but to whom she gave the reins when they were ready.

And of course there are the “lemon fluff” frozen desserts she made in ice trays, snow-cream during our Kentucky days, the cinnamon yeast rolls on Christmas mornings, and the traditional little bottles of Welch’s Grape Juice in our stockings, banana pudding on other special occasions, the cornbread dressing with the big Butterball turkey at Thanksgiving, date-nut cakes on my birthdays... my mouth is watering.

Which brings us to some verse I wrote for Mama many years ago now. 


Dandelions in a Milk Carton

Thank you, Mama, 
For nursing me and diapering me,
for a dry set of sheets when I wet another,
for the Bible story book and Uncle Remus,
for all five sisters and my little brother,
 
And all the good eating stuff
Like biscuits from wooden bowls
and datenut cakes and lemon fluff,
and Russian tea and yeast rolls 
 
For Jesus-loves-the-little-children and Deep-and-Wide,
For walking to school that first day by my side
And for your loving smile when I came in a run
with dandelions in a milk carton for all you’ve done.

remember with pride how as a widow in her early sixties my mother followed her heart, her calling, and her conscience, despite her bashful nature, to take over my father’s ministry, complete seminary, become an outstanding preacher, and successfully minister to several churches and many hurting people in the years since. Many times this was while she heroically faced one of the most debilitating and painful diseases known to mankind (Trigeminal neuralgia) and its resulting brain surgeries and medications -- and later facial surgery and cancer.

Everyone has always assumed Mother to be younger than her actual age as long as I can remember, and she still seems much younger than what the calendar indicates. I have always believed my Mama the prettiest, smartest, and kindest one around -- and, of course, also the best cook. Still do.

Happy birthday, Mama